issue 15 :: July 2008

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REVIEW: Arsenije Jovanovic

“Galiola: works for radio, 1967-2000” CD [FO A RM projects / and/OAR Records / Alluvial Recordings]

reviewed by Josh Ronsen

Serbian sound artist Jovanovic has been producing radio plays — known in Germany as Hörspiel — since the 1960s. Dozens of these pieces have been only heard by the public once, when they were aired. Seth Nehil, a friend and sound artist formerly of Austin now based in Portland, interviewed Jovanovic for the FO A RM publication in 2006. More importantly, he rescued 4 of Jovanovic’s treasures onto CD, which sit nicely beside the CD of Jovanovic’s works released by Eric La Casa in the mid-1990s. I think Seth and I both were captivated when Eric sent N D a copy of this release. The idea of a radio play is virtually unknown in America, where radio works are either the audio portion of theatre (Prairie Home Companion) or boring journalistic stories with sound effects (the banal reporting of National Public Radio). In Europe, the radio play combines all forms of sound, music, sound effects, interviews, acting and electronics into a slippery and artistic maze of meaning and personal reflection.

 1967’s “Prayer for One Galiola” collages electronic and environmental sounds, acoustic instruments (cello, harp) and laughing and spoken voices. Each of the sounds seems to answer the preceding sound in a dreamlike cinematic way. I can imagine this being the soundtrack to a Fellini film, due in part to the many repetitions of the name Galiola (the name of one of Jovanovic’s boats), which sounds Italian to me. The at turns monkish and ominous male chorus, to my ears sounding like a meeting of a secret Catholic society, adds to the Italian feeling. Also from 1967, “Tombstones Along the Roadside” presents a meditation on the deaths of the Balkan soldiers who died throughout the first half of the 20th Century and never received proper burials. Somber voice read from their tombstones (over empty graves) and create voices of the dead from beyond the grave over subtle electronic drones. None of the text is in English, so much of the meaning behind the piece is lost to me: the liner notes by Jovanovic help. The other two pieces were made later and largely eschew text for atmosphere. 1990’s eerie “Prophecy of the Village Kremna” was used in Malik’s film The Thin Red Line. Here drones, rattles and wind noises merge into a slow moving mass, like a curtain separating us from something awful. “Les Vents Du Camargue” from 2000 feels like a remix of the previous piece, with similar elements mixed more dynamically, mixed with bird and children noises recorded from a 12th century church.

 Jovanovic’s slow-paced works are necessary listening, I think. With this CD and releases on Kunstradio and La Casa’s La Legende des Voix labels, we have just just scratched the surface of this radio master’s varied works. I used some of the promotional materials sent to us by La Casa in Monk Mink Pink Punk #6, which is now posted online.
artwork by Rick Reed


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